Tagged: Ivan Nova

Nova fires back to Pittsburgh…

But at least it wasn’t for BIG money…

Good for Ivan Nova to get his new contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  All things considered, I am still glad that he is an ex-Yankee.  Even though the Yankees are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation, I wasn’t looking for a reunion with the right-hander.

One headline I saw did strike me as odd.  It basically said that Nova had signed but not for big money.  3 years, $26 million.  Maybe it’s just me, but $26 million is definitely “big money”.  Okay, if Nova pitches for Pittsburgh like he did after the trade from the Yankees last year, he’ll be a bargain.  But still, receiving more than $8 million per year is still a heck of a lot of money for a historically inconsistent pitcher.

But the more telling headlines are about how great Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is.  The so-called “Pitch Doctor” is getting the credit for Nova’s turnaround performance in Pittsburgh last year.  The underlying tone of the message is that the Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is inadequate.  If Searage is so great, perhaps the Yankees should find a way to pry him from the Pirates.

I know that Rothschild has a good reputation, but at some point, someone has to be held accountable for the inconsistencies of the Yankees starters.  Masahiro Tanaka rebounded to have a very solid 2016 campaign but the work put up by Michael Pineda continues to be frustrating to say the least.  Luis Severino was dreadful as a starter.  I can’t say that I’ve ever looked at Rothschild as an “amazing” coach.  It would be nice to have one of those for a change.

Kevin Long is an excellent hitting coach.  Yet, when Yankees hitters couldn’t hit, he lost his job and now flourishes in Queens.  He remains better than the Yankees current array of hitting coaches.  I personally felt that Long was a better hitting coach than Rothschild is a pitching coach.  Long was held accountable and so too should Rothschild.  The Yankees have too much at stake with their young, unproven starters to fail miserably because they didn’t have the right guy at the helm.

–Scott

Well, that didn’t turn out as planned…

Be careful what you ask for…

In my last post, I stated my preference for Masahiro Tanaka to be named the Opening Day starter.  This, of course, was before Joe Girardi announced that Tanaka, in fact, would be the starter.  So of course, Tanaka promptly bombed as the Yankees were throttled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1.

The start didn’t change my opinion that Tanaka was the best choice.  Michael Pineda is the next best starter on the staff, but he didn’t deserve the nod over Tanaka.  CC Sabathia may have been the sentimental choice if for no other reason than the consecutive years he has been the starter.  But his performance last season (injuries combined with the continued gradual decline) didn’t warrant the start either.  Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t going to get it, and neither was Adam Warren.  The right choice was made by Girardi even if the results indicated otherwise.

My concern, more than anything, is the health of Tanaka’s arm.  Yes, it was only one start and one start does not a season make.  But going to last year after he returned from the DL, the results of not been great.  If Tanaka has to learn to be a different pitcher at age 26 to lessen the strain on the elbow ligament, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be successful.  A solid outing would certainly help allay some of the concerns, but inevitably, I do feel this road leads to Tommy John surgery.  The sad part is that if he undergoes the surgery at any point this season, we most likely would not see him again until 2017, with 2018 being the target for a full return to health.

It’s too bad the Yankees do not have the quality starters to go six deep.  I’d rather lessen the load on Tanaka by spreading the distance between his starts.

Tanaka’s health certainly increases the spotlight on Adam Warren, as he’ll need to be the man to bridge the gap.  Today he is covering for Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, but later in the summer, it could very well be for Tanaka.

Larry Rothschild is certainly earning his paycheck.  Earlier in the year, I didn’t think we’d see Luis Severino in the major leagues this year.  Now, it appears to be only a matter of time.

Another prospect lost…

It is hard not to get excited about certain prospects, and that certainly held true for catcher Austin Romine who was once billed as one of the organization’s best catching prospects along with since traded Jesus Montero.  Romine has the bloodline (his father Kevin played for the Boston Red Sox among other teams and his brother Andrew plays for the Detroit Tigers).  I was hopeful that Romine would use spring training to show the team that he belongs in New York.  It didn’t happen with a sub .200 batting average.  Perhaps the odds were against him since he was out of options and John Ryan Murphy, his competition for the back-up catching spot, is the better hitter.  Still, it was sad when the team announced just before the start of the season that it had designated Romine for assignment.  Maybe there’s a chance that he stays in the organization, but it seems inevitable that a trade is the more probable outcome as there isn’t much of a chance Romine could slide through waivers (teams need catching help too much, just ask Boston).  Romine has been an outstanding team guy and he’ll serve some organization well when/if he finally gets his chance at the Show.

A-Rod…

I am still not an A-Rod fan but I have to admit that he carried himself well in spring training and has done everything the team has asked.  If the Yankees suddenly found a way to rid themselves of A-Rod, I’d be all in favor.  But since that’s not going to happen, I’ll have to give A-Rod credit for not rocking the boat.

I still can’t bring myself to cheer for A-Rod but he’s effectively shut me up from booing for now.

*    *     *

I am glad that the baseball season is back but it would have been more exciting to open the season with a victory.  It was tougher to see the loss combined with a convincing Red Sox win on Opening Day.  Red Sox always gloat in victory so Opening Day was no exception.

I do feel more confident with Michael Pineda on the mound Wednesday, however, the team offense needs to step up their game.

Let’s Go, Yankees!

–Scott

Bonjour, Fevrier…

Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…

The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season.  While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year.  There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.

Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender.  So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on.  I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.

I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley.  There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could.  It was a shot worth taking.  Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff.  Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance.  I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.

Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy.  I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.

The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano.  Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does.  It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old.  I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson.  I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller.  Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.

While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.

While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher.  Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release.  Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.

The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting.  Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.

–Scott

Like it or not, here comes the 2015 season…

What’s the plan?…

Well, it’s January 2015.  The Yankees roster is slowly evolving.  The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense.  While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop.  It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.

I am still concerned about the starting rotation.  Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old.  I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy.  His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion.  The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers.  Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016.  Nathan Eovaldi is the project.  The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can.  It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.

While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields.  With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.

I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue.  I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes.  It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans.  Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus.  I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.

I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites.  So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard.  I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.

At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs.  I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat.  They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.  The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years.  Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.

There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira.  Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around.  Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.

Hear the voice of the Bard!…

There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard.  It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle.  Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed.  Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.

Short walk to the Hall…

Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees:  John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez.  I think all of the selections were justified.  It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it.  Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.

25 years is long enough…

Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame.  He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime.  This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.

I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity.  Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.

–Scott

End of WS, Start of Hot Stove…

Quiet domination…

I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years.  For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly.  I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.

Getty Images

When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away.  Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound.  It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far.  Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular.  I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams.  They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities.  With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.

Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…

Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs.  It does seem like a potential great marriage.  Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later.  He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make.  It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.

When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman.  But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately.  Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good.  With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon.  Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.

Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.

Protect your own, well, except #13…

I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t.  It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it.  Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx.  Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen.  The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.

I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.  However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers.  CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields).  At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return.  It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow.  So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere.  It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.

Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.

Too many players with uncertainty.  Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list.  His days as a premier third baseman are over.  That’s even more reason to bring Headley back.  With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus.  I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster.  I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.

With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training.  My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market.  They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.

It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge.  One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.

This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine.  The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go.  I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).

Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman.  The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system.  Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout.  I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.

Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position.  Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.

Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.

I am ready for Spring Training to begin…

–Scott

I know the Fat Lady is not singing but…

So close, yet so far away…

The Yankees may only be 3 games back in the Wild Card chase as they enter play this evening, but trailing three teams for two spots sounds a bit daunting.  Particularly when two of those teams are perhaps the best in the American League with the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers.  At the end of play last night, Oakland, Detroit and the Seattle Mariners were tied.  While I think the Yankees could catch the Mariners, the odds are against them when it comes to the A’s (or Angels) or the Tigers (or Royals).

Much larger leads have fallen in the past, but I think the superiority of the A’s and Tigers will win out.  If they take their divisions, the Angels and Royals both field superior teams to the Yankees.  I don’t think there are any waiver deals at the deadline that can be made to improve this year’s Yankees.  As with the non-waiver deadline in July, I didn’t want the Yankees to part with prospects nor do I now.  If I legitimately felt that the team had a chance in October, perhaps I’d feel differently.  But the 2014 Yankees, even if they landed a Wild Card spot, would be destined for a one game Wild Card loss or if they prevailed, they’d be bounced in the first round. 

It’s disappointing as a Yankees fan as it doesn’t feel like championship hopes can be restored in the short term.  The Yankees are 11 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and yet, the outlook for the 2015 Red Sox is far more promising. 

Huh, I didn’t know he was available?…

When I heard that the Yankees had signed Chris Young to a minor league deal, my first thought was when did the Seattle Mariners get rid of their starting pitcher who is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA on the season?  But then I heard the talk about him playing the outfield and realized they were talking about the other one.  I don’t know much about OF Chris Young but it seems like he was once a promising Arizona Diamondback who had a disappointing 2013, signed with the Mets and continued to underwhelm until his release.  Given the Yanks success with ex-Diamondbacks (i.e., Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy) perhaps Young will revert to his old form under the tutelage of the Pinstripes.  Not sure if the Yankees will call him up before or after September 1st but he seems like a good replacement for Ichiro Suzuki if he is successful.

A little early to look to next year but…

With the success of Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy in the starting rotation, it will be interesting next year.  While CC Sabathia will be returning, I honestly do not know what the Yankees will be getting and if it will be an upgrade over Greene or McCarthy.  Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka are obvious locks, although Ivan Nova might be delayed since he’s coming off Tommy John surgery.  I think this is the final year in the United States for Hiroki Kuroda before he heads back to Japan permanently.  Still, even if the starting rotation projects to be Tanaka-Pineda-Sabathia-McCarthy-Greene, I fully expect the Yankees to go after a free agent pitcher like Jon Lester.  Lester, partnered with a healthy Tanaka, at the head of the rotation would be huge. 

Lester was my favorite pitcher when he played for Boston so having him on the Yankees would be ideal. 

There will be lots of interesting decisions to be made by Manager Joe Girardi and company.  And oh yeah, we’ll have to deal with the return of he who shall remain nameless at third and DH. 

–Scott

 

What Dreams May Come…

The end of days…

The realist in me understands that these are the end of days for the New York Yankees.  It is merely a time formality for them to be mathematically eliminated.  A recent 5-game skid has almost assured the Baseball Gods and those twin sisters at Yankee Stadium, Mystique and Aura, that there will be no October baseball in the Bronx.  Realistically, I do not  believe the Yankees have a chance to catch the Detroit Tigers or Kansas City Royals as either one of those teams should capture the second Wild Card behind the Los Angeles Angels. 

What does this mean?  Honestly, I think that Brian Cashman’s tenure as GM has reached its conclusion.  While I’ve enjoyed Cashman as GM, I recognize that it is time for change.  Assistant GM Billy Eppler, a finalist for the San Diego Padres GM job that he lost to A.J. Preller, is a top candidate and my personal choice as a successor.  I would prefer Eppler, who knows and understands the inner workings of the Yankees kingdom, as opposed to an outsider that would have a learning curve.  Eppler is respected and he’ll have the support of the Steinbrenners from Day 1 given his history with them. 

 

New York Post/Charles Wenzelberg

This Yankees team is old and I don’t know what they can do in the short run to turn things around.  In many ways, they should have been sellers at the trading deadline to bring an infusion of youth into the organization.  The Yankees have talent at the lower levels of the minor leagues (man, am I looking forward to the day that OF Aaron Judge takes the field) but the higher level prospects have largely been a disappointment.  While I am hopeful that 2B Rob Refsnyder gets a sniff of Yankee Stadium in September, it is P Manny Banuelos that I am most interested in.  Once touted as the top pitching prospect in the organization, I still think Banuelos can deliver the goods now that he is healthy.  Hopefully, he is able to make a statement in September to convince the team that he is ready for 2015.

 What does it mean? The return of CC Sabathia leaves little to be excited about as he showed nothing to disprove he is aging fast prior to his injury.  Hiroki Kuroda will finally head for the shores of Japan, whether it is to retire or to play one last season in the Japanese leagues.  So, the Yankees will enter 2015 with plenty of questions in the rotation.  Masahiro Tanaka should be the opening day starter, but he’s still just an elbow blowout from Tommy John surgery.  Shane Greene has proven he belongs so I am confident that he’ll be part of the rotation.  Michael Pineda is in the ‘show me’ stage of his career.  It’s time for him to stay healthy and produce.  If he is capable of doing that, he’ll be at the upper echelon of the starting rotation.  If not, he’ll go by the wayside, ala Carl Pavano.  Ivan Nova, I have no clue.

What really makes this down season so bad is that next spring will be met by Alex Rodriguez.  I really hope that the Yankees find a way to sever ties and ensure that A-Rod never wears pinstripes again.

Matt Slocum 

“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me. Make your life spectacular.” – Jack

I know that this is a sports blog but I’d be remiss for not acknowledging the tremendous impact that Robin Williams had on me during the course of my life.  From Mork and Mindy to the many movies that Robin starred in, he made a difference.  His comic genius was unlike any other, and he took to any role and embraced it.  For someone who brought so much joy and happiness into so many lives, it is unfortunate that he was unable to do so for himself.  This has been a tough year with celebrity losses, with actress Lauren Bacall being the latest example, but Robin Williams is a star that will continue to shine brightly.  I hope that he found what he was seeking in his fatal decision, but it’s a given that he’ll never be forgotten.  Thanks Robin, we appreciate you, we love you, and hope that you’re the life of the party at the divine afterlife. 

 

–Scott